The Seat of the Conflict, by Father Basil William Maturin

The spiritual life of most people may be said to begin from one of two starting-points. The thought of God or the thought of self. There are many whose minds with a natural instinct turn to God. The things of faith have ever been a reality to them. Even when their lives have been most inconsistent their faith has shone clear and undisturbed.

And there are others who have been driven to God through the knowledge of their own great needs – the natural tendency of their minds is to turn inward, not outward. They have been driven to look outwards and upward by what they have found within.

Their knowledge of themselves, of the strength of natural inclination, of their own temperament, of the power and persistency of habit, deepens their sense of hopelessness, and shows them that they have no power of themselves to help themselves, and only when, like the woman in the Gospel, they have “suffered many things from many physicians, and were nothing the better but rather worse,” they are driven at last to God.

If there had anywhere appeared in space
Another place of refuge where to flee,
Our souls had sought for refuge in that place
And not in Thee.

And only when we found in earth and air
And heaven and hell, that such could nowhere be,
That we could not flee from Thee anywhere,
We fled to Thee.

Self-knowledge apart from God can indeed only lead to despair. For he who has sunk to earth knows well he can find no lever on earth or within himself to raise him. How can he? How can anything within himself raise him above himself? How can anything on earth raise him above the earth? Like the piece of silver, in the Parable, that has fallen to the earth, he needs the Hand of Another to raise him.

From one or other, therefore, of these two starting-points the religious life of most men will be found to begin. From the knowledge of God or the knowledge of self. But though they may begin from either of these two poles, earth or heaven, the end must be the same. One will learn from the greatness and Holiness of God, the greatness of man’s destiny to whom He has condescended to reveal Himself. The other will learn from the greatness of his own needs, the greatness and the Love of God who delivers him. For, as it has been well said, “He who believes humanity requires no higher influence than its own, will see in Christ no more than a man like himself; he who thinks man’s only need is an example, will look upon Christ as an ideal man; he who thinks man only needs virtue, will look upon Him as a great moral teacher. But he who feels that the need of his nature is something more than nature can supply, will seek for the supernatural in Christ”

Now there are in the Apostolic College two men who severally represent these two starting-points of Christian knowledge and life, Saint John and Saint Paul. Saint John is the type of the objective mind. He looks upward and outward. Like the eagle he spreads his wings and soars aloft and gazes into the Face of the Sun. In all his writings he tells us little or nothing about^ himself He lets us into none of the secrets of his own inner struggles. We know him mainly as the mirror in which the Person of Christ is reflected. He is the Divine – the great contemplative. He is like that “sea of glass mingled with fire” of which he writes, “that is before the Throne of God”. When he speaks of himself at all it is almost impersonally – he is the Disciple whom Jesus loved He is the Disciple who leant upon Jesus* Bosom at the Last Supper. The one whose life was “hidden with Christ in God”. What can we learn from him directly of the mysteries of the human soul, of the conflict with evil, of the anguish of penitence and the haunting memories of sin? He tells us indeed of the infinite Love of God. He is the Apostle of Love, and he reveals to us the greatness of man’s destiny who can rise into such intimate and close friendship with the Most High.

How different, on the other hand, is Saint Paul. There is no secret of the human heart that he does not know. His experiences are for the world. He gives them all freely and generously to mankind. He has that wonderful and rare charm, the power of speaking of himself without a shadow of egotism. He tells us of his own idealism and of his utter powerlessness to realise his ideals, and how at last he gained the power. Whatever he tells us comes with the freshness and vividness of a personal experience. Saint John, if I may say so, stands behind his writings, Saint Paul stands in the forefront The personal element is everywhere. Across the ages the man lives before us; his words throb and vibrate with an intense personality rarely equalled and never surpassed. He is the representative of the subjective mind, looking inward, studying, analysing, and recording its own workings.

We could ill afford to do without the Revelation of both these Apostles. One will appeal most to one type of character, the other to another; but we need both. Saint John is like the great arching heavens above us, calm in their serenity; Saint Paul like the storm-swept world beneath; but as earth and heavens can never be separated, so these two great teachers together are needed to show us the way in which man can be united to God.

Now it is certainly untrue to say that the one thing which we need in order to overcome sin and to attain perfection is a more perfect knowledge of our own nature and its laws. We do not find that the best physiolgists and the best psychologists are necessarily the best men. Indeed, if we know ourselves at all, we are painfully conscious that under great temptation we often act in direct opposition to our knowledge. The drunkard and the sensualist know full well that they are ruining the health both of mind and body, but I doubt if this knowledge alone has ever succeeded in making one or other either temperate or pure. Indeed, according to the teaching of our Lord,, this is taken for granted: “He that knew his Lord’s will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes”. The mere knowledge of what we ought not to do, often even of the disastrous results of what we are tempted to, will not necessarily hold a man back from doing it Saint Paul utters the experience of every man who has ever striven after a high standard when he says, “I cannot do the things that I would,” and again, “the good which I will I do not, but the evil which I will not that I do”.

Yet at the same time, though it is certainly not the whole truth to say that ignorance is the only cause, or the chief cause, of failure, there is undoubtedly an element of truth in it Many a life’s failure has been caused by ignorance. Many an earnest person has lost all the joy and conscious success in the spiritual life through not understanding himself. If we understood ourselves better we should certainly be able to put ourselves to better use. There are not a few who have failed through striving after the impossible. A failure to obey the laws of our physical nature will cause ill-health or death. The violation of the laws that govern the working of the mind may cause insanity, and the ignorance of these laws has made shipwreck of the spiritual life of not a few. And ignorance of the higher and more subtle and mysterious laws of our inmost being must cause failure and suffering in proportion. The truth is, we need both to know ourselves and the laws that govern our lives, and also to know and to apply the remedies which God has provided to heal the diseases caused by the violation of these laws.

And yet it is no doubt true that no two men are exactly alike either in their character or experience. Each individual to a certain extent must stand alone. Most of us, I suppose, have felt that in the greatest moments of life, when some serious choice had to be made or some great temptation faced, we could get little help from others except the kindly help that comes from the sympathy of a fellow-creature. At such moments every one feels the isolation of his own personality. It is impossible to put into words so that another can understand just that which makes the difficulty my difficulty.

But, on the other hand, so alike are the workings of the human heart in all, so really one is human nature, that the knowledge of oneself will help very largely to the knowledge of others, and it is possible so to analyse the structure and working of the soul as to be able to get some knowledge of the causes and results of those inner struggles which are the common lot of mankind. The temptations and disposition of one may be very different from those of another, yet the causes of temptation and of failure or success may be, nay, assuredly are, the same in all.

To this knowledge Saint Paul shall be our guide. As we study his wonderful analysis of himself and the inner conflict which he experiences and describes, we feel as if he were reading the very secrets of our hearts, and more, that we understand ourselves and the tortuous workings of our nature as we never did before. And, like all great masters, what he discloses is so simple, so natural and so true, that we almost wonder we did not guess it ourselves.

1. In the first place, he describes for us that inner struggle that goes on ceaselessly in every human heart. Man is not at one with himself. His soul is like a household divided against itself; often it is like a kingdom in a state of revolution. This inner conflict is not the conflict between the flesh and the spirit – the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. It is far deeper and more intimate, it is within the very springs of our being. The inner soul is not at one with itself. It has to decide and to act often, in some things most often, in the teeth of a deadly opposition, and the opposition arises from no outside source but from within. If the whole soul, the person at one with himself, had to meet opposition or temptation from without it would be a comparatively easy matter, but he who goes forth to battle does not feel sure of his troops, nay, he knows that one-half will oppose him, and that in the battle he cannot be sure of having his resources at command. While fighting with some foe from without, he has at the same time to fight a more dangerous foe within, who at any moment may hand him over, bound and captive, to the enemy. This is that inner conflict which Saint Paul describes with a master’s hand in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. We all know it, we all experience it daily, yet we scarcely realise how anomalous it is. There is nothing like it so far as we know upon earth. Every other living thing is at one with itself, though, it may be, at war with all the world. We cannot imagine that the beast has to wage any inner conflict with itself in order that it may live according to the laws of its animal life. Whatever may be the struggle for life with its environment, every instinct, impulse and passion co-operate for its well-being and to lead it to its end; the dim light that shines within is sufficient to enable it to see things only as they exist in relation to its narrow and circumscribed life; it is disturbed by no misleading appearances from without, by no false lights within. The whole machinery of its being co-operates to lead it directly to its end. The tree spins its wondrous web, shaping branch and bud and blossom and fruit with unerring certainty and steady purpose. It never pauses, never makes a false start, never tries another model. It only knows what it needs to perfect its own life. Amidst a multitude of other lives different from itself it lives content, its perfection results from its perfect unity, all its resources are at its command and co-operate for its well-being.

Man alone, amidst all these living things around him, lord of them all and using them for his service, is not master of himself. He is torn and tortured by the inner struggle, the incapacity to rally all the forces within him to pursue his end and attain to his own perfection. What success can he look for till this is secured? How can he meet some seductive temptation with any hope of victory when he knows already that his heart desires and is determined to have what his reason tells him will be his ruin?

2. But again, Saint Paul shows us the seat of this inner conflict. It lies in the highest region of the soul’s life. There is discord in the council chamber of the soul and the whole kingdom suffers from the lack of union amongst its rulers. The revolt or disobedience of the humblest servant or the lowest official in its service springs from this. Every department feels it and suffers from it. The conflict is primarily between the moral and intellectual powers. The mind and will are not at one. The mind sees and delights in what is good and the will chooses what is evil. “I am delighted,” says Saint Paul, “with the law of God according to the inward man: but I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members.” The order of nature is overthrown, the will refuses to obey the guidance of reason. The legislative and executive are in open conflict What the mind desires the will refuses to carry out.

Who does not know this? Who has not experienced it? The hatred of the sins we commit and continue to commit; the love of the good we desire and intend to do, and yet often do not even try to do; the will going its own way in direct disobedience to the reason. We admire and wish for self«-control, and hate ourselves for the impulsiveness to which we yield. We love the spirit of unworldliness, and are worldly to the heart’s core. We hate insincerity, and are eloquent in the praise of truth, and are thoroughly untruthful.

And this opposition between our ideals and acts does not in any way arise from hypocrisy, but from the fact that “we cannot do the things that we would”. Here in the highest region of the soul’s life there is discord. All other acts of the will are of secondary importance compared with its action in the moral sphere, and here it fails; obeying promptly the reason in almost all its other commands it revolts and disobeys in this, and often the light of some good desire is still shining in the mind while the will has broken away and turned to the evil it hates.

We are so accustomed to these extraordinary paradoxes that we do not realise how amazing they are, if they happened in any other than the moral sphere we could only account for them by madness. And yet no one can doubt that the moral life is the highest; nay, we all recognise it as the essential life of man to which everything else should be subservient.

What should we think of a man who constantly acted in direct opposition to his political convictions, or to his artistic or literary tastes; or of a skilled and cultivated musician who loved the great masters but never played any music except of the most debased kind; or of a man of refined tastes who always chose his friends from the most vulgar and ignorant; or of one who constantly voted not only against his own party but against his own interests? And what should we say to such people if in excuse for their inconsistencies they were to answer that they could not help it – “I cannot do the things that I would”? We could only assume that such a coarse of action was the result of insanity.

Yet in the moral life such paradoxes are so common, such every-day experiences, that we scarcely think of them, or if we do, we speak of them as being only the inconsistencies which are common to the frailty of human nature. And yet they are not common, they are in direct opposition to man’s invariable rule of action in every other department of life. There is nothing like it in all his experiences. Who could imagine a man constantly acting against his own interests, his own desires and his own tastes, hating the things that he did and still doing them; going forth with the full intention of pursuing a certain course which he had planned out and wished to pursue and doing the very opposite? No, there is but one isolated department in man’s nature where the law of his action is altogether exceptional. Where the intellectual and moral faculties refuse to co-operate, and the will deliberately, often contemptuously, violates the commands of the reason. It is as though one came across a land where all the rivers flowed backwards.

This then is the cause of the loss of that inner unity of which every one of us is so conscious. Man is not at one with himself, he is not sure of himself, he is not certain that he can and will do what he wants to do, he is not master of the manifold resources that lie within his own nature, because he is not sure of the loyalty of his own will. Nay, in certain things he is almost certain of its disloyalty, that it will betray his highest interests, and sell his birthright, as the son of God, for a mess of pottage.

But why is this, if in other things the will and reason co-operate so well, what is the cause of this exception in the highest region of the life of the soul?

Now Saint Paul traces it to another conflict more deeply seated still. In a moment in which he was conscious of this revolt within himself he cried out in amazement at his own inconsistency, “The good which I will I do not, but the evil which I hate that do I”. He then proceeds to analyse and record his own experience. He finds that these extraordinary moral inconsistencies arise from the fact that our nature is the scene of the constant strife of four forces each struggling with the others for its own ascendency over the soul. They are not impulses, or what we ordinarily mean by passions, which are violent and fitful in their action, they are forces acting as forces do act under law.

And these four forces he calls “The Law of the members, the Law of the mind, the Law of sin, and the Law of the Spirit of Life”.

To these four forces, working with all the persistency and precision of Law, he traces all that passes in the soul of good or evil, and to their conflict most of the paradoxes. Now one force asserts itself, now another, and the will sways and is bent accordingly.

But if we look more closely we shall find that these four Laws work in pairs. One pair working together for evil and the other pair for good. “The Law of my members brings me into captivity to the Law of sin,” and the “Law of my mind” delivers me over to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus our Lord which sets me free from the Law of sin and death. The conflict is not directly between sin and holiness. There is a force, a Law, that leads to sin, a tendency in the soul not directly sinful but preparing it for sin, which, if it be allowed to have its own way will bring the soul under the dominion of sin. And there is a Law which, if it be allowed to operate, will lead the soul, held captive under sin, to its Deliverer, the Law of the Spirit of Life which sets it free from the Law of sin and death.

Let us study a little more closely these four Laws working for the ruin and for the salvation of man. The study will not, I think, be unprofitable in helping us to understand ourselves, our weakness and our strength, and in enabling us to see the central point in the spiritual conflict where everything depends upon the practise of a steady watchfulness and self-discipline.

1. The Law of the members.

According to Saint Paul, there is a law working in us resulting in acts and desires which are not in themselves sinful but which prepare the way for sin. We know well enough what is definitely right and what is wrong, but there is something else, in itself neither right nor wrong, belonging to the debatable land, the borderland between right and wrong. The region neither of light nor darkness, but of twilight. The soul that dwells under the law of this land will certainly end in passing over into the kingdom of darkness and of sin. The heat of the battle does not, in fact, lie in the direct conflict with evil, but with things in themselves neither right nor wrong. The man who determines that he will not do what is positively wrong, but will do everything else that he wishes, will find that in the long run he cannot stop short of actual sin.

There are in Nature a multitude of phenomena apparently having no relation to one another which a careful study shows to be all the product of the same law – the falling of an apple to the ground, the motion of the stars in their courses through the heavens, the weight of the atmosphere. And there are in the life of man a number of acts and words, of desires and inclinations, which, however independent they may seem, can all be brought under one category, the working of one steady and changeless Law whose object is to bring him under the dominion of sin. This Saint Paul calls “the Law of the members”. Let a man yield himself unresistingly to the control of this Law, and he will ere long find himself under the captivity of the Law of sin.

We turn away at first in disgust and shrinking from sins which later on enslave us. We have not yet been sufficiently habituated to other things which relax the will and weaken the voice of conscience and lower the moral tone and prepare the way for a terrible fall. Little acts of self-indulgence, not one of them wrong in themselves – the delight in the approbation of others, the full enjoyment of the gratification of the senses, the shrinking from hardships and the difficulties that life involves, the whipping up of the fagged and tired powers of mind or body to meet some necessary strain by resorting to stimulants, the dulling of pain by a narcotic, the turning from the uncongenial surroundings of domestic life to a friendship that is not in itself wrong but is fraught with danger – such things as these, not one of which in each separate act could be said to be wrong, have ended in the shipwreck of a soul. They all were the outcome of the constant working of that Law of the members which leads men captive to the Law of sin.

It is against this Law that the soul must keep up a constant warfare. Sin can only gain a footing when this Law is allowed to have full play. The mortified and disciplined life alone will be able to resist the assaults of sin. There is, as Saint Paul says, a constant and unceasing warfare between this Law of the members and the Law of the mind, before the Law of sin can exercise its sway over the soul.

2. The Law of sin.

For sin, too, works by law. Saint John speaks of sin as lawlessness: “Sin is the violation of law”. Yet these two statements are not contradictory. Sin is the violation of the law of the soul’s true life, but sin has its own terrible law. Just as disease is the violation of the law of physical health; it sets itself to destroy those wonderful combinations and harmonies that are the result of life; but disease works by its own law. Every physician knows the different stages of the progress of the fever, or the growth of the tumour or cancer. He knows the law by which they grow. They grow by a law which is opposed to the law of the well-being of the organism which they have seized upon. In relation to that organism, they act in violation of law, in relation to their own development, under law.

And it is the same with sin. Sin is the entrance into the moral life of man of that which is in deadly opposition to it, but which nevertheless works by its own law. The law of sin is death. It is the destruction of the moral life. Let sin enter into and take possession of the soul, and it dies. The will, though still in full possession of its strength for other work, is powerless to meet the assaults of sin. The reason that with wisdom rules the whole nature in the ordinary affairs of life becomes clouded and obscured in moral action. The powers of the soul become impregnated with disease, they refuse to co-operate for its well-being. They pass under the dominion of the morbid action of sin. The body once beautiful with the vigour and buoyancy of youth, laid low under the ravages of disease, robbed of every ornament of beauty, exhausted and overwhelmed with weakness, is but the image of the soul dishonoured, discrowned and defiled by sin.

Thus sin once admitted and indulged, lives, grows and develops by its own law. Its growth is like that of an organism which feeds upon the very life of the soul, absorbing its strength. Its life is the soul’s death, its strength the soul’s weakness, its growth the soul’s decay. We cannot bargain with it and say it shall go so far and no farther, we can do but one of two things – kill it, cut it out as we would some cancerous growth, or leave it, and then it will grow according to its own law, not in obedience to any control of ours. We probably know nothing of that law, of the slowness or rapidity of the growth of some one sin which we leave to itself till we find how deep its roots have spread, how exhausted the soul’s life and how hideous and abnormal has been its development Some organisms grow slowly, others with astonishing rapidity. And it is the same with this parasite sin – some sins grow slowly and almost imperceptibly; the growth of such sins as selfishness, pride and many others is so gradual that the conscience of their victims is not wakened or disturbed often till the roots are deeply embedded and the nature well-nigh enslaved. On the other hand, there are sins that grow and spread with a terrible rapidity, like the leaven which in a few hours spreads through and transforms the mass of dough.

Think of such a sin, for instance, as impatience if left unchecked. How quickly it develops into anger, bitterness, revenge. How the imagination becomes discoloured, giving the words and actions of others an utterly false interpretation. How the victim of this temptation isolates himself more and more in morose and vindictive brooding, how the reason becomes deluded by the misleading of the imagination, and the once kindly heart is wrung dry of all affection and possessed by harsh and cruel hate. All the normal relations of life become strained or broken till the poor deluded soul is left isolated in a bitter solitude, its hungry nature feeding on a poison that vitiates the springs of life.

He then who yields himself to the Law of the members will find himself delivered over to the Law of sin. These are the two forces working with all the persistency of law which co-operate for the ruin of the soul. Beginning with the easy-going, pleasure-loving enjoyment of all that life has to offer, shrinking only from what is painful, and ending in the grim and hopeless slavery of sin. Our Lord has drawn the picture. The Prodigal going forth to a life of unrestrained pleasure with probably little knowledge or thought of anything positively evil, and ending with the cry, “How many hired servants in my Father’s House abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger”.

But there are two other forces that work with equal persistency and co-operate for the soul’s welfare and deliverance. “The Law of the mind” and “the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus our Lord” – one of these is natural, the other supernatural, yet both equally work by Law, and they work always together. As truly as “the Law of sin” needs the “Law of the members” to prepare for it, so does the “Law of the Spirit of Life” need the preparation of the “Law of the mind”. Obedience to the natural law of the mind is the preparation by which the soul is brought under the Law of the supernatural power of the Spirit of Life.

3. “The Law of the mind.” It is the law of the true self. The Law of the members is the Law of the lower self, and this is ever warring with the Law of the mind. As one or other of these gains the victory, one of the other two corresponding forces rushes in and takes possession.

There is then a Law in constant and unceasing action whose object is to lift the soul up to all that is best in it, nay, above itself into the supernatural. It is no intermittent impulse coming now like a mighty wind and again sinking into stillness. No, it is a Law always acting and always in the same direction. Amidst the din of conflicting motives that clamour for a hearing in the council chamber of the soul, one voice is always to be heard speaking for its true interests, against the sacrifice of the whole to a part, of eternity to time – one influence always acting for it. It is the Law of the true self, the Voice of Conscience. It is not an abstract law, nor an external law promulgated like the Law of Sinai from without. It is above all things personal; Saint Paul calls it the Law of my mind. It interprets all external law personally for the individual. There are obligations and duties that are binding on some and not on others, arising from vocation, position, religious training, spiritual attainments; all these are taken into consideration. It knows and gives due weight to the past, understands the capacity of the soul, its possibilities and its destiny. It does not press upon one the standard of another, but interprets and applies all external standards to the individual. It will urge one to enter the priesthood and another to enter public life, it will lead one into the married state and another into the state of celibacy. It is the Law of the perfection of the individual soul. Whatever be the complications brought about by past sin it can point the way to liberty.

But, like all law, its strength and its weakness lie in the fact that it acts in the minutest details as well as in great things. The same law which controls the movements of the heavens controls the autumn leaf as it falls to the earth. And the Law of the mind is ever acting in the smallest details of daily life. With its prophetic vision it sees the soul, already perfect, entering into the Vision of God; and that it may attain that end, it issues its command in some small and insignificant detail of duty; its eye is always on the future, but its commands are in the present As when our Lord having foretold the martyrdom of Saint Peter, turned to him and said “Follow Me” – as though He would say. If you would be able to die the martyr’s death begin now by following Me.

So the Law of the mind works like the sculptor with his eye on the model and his hands upon the clay, moulding it by touches so light that they are scarcely perceptible. We forget this prophetic character of conscience, and thinking its commands often are insignificant, being unfaithful in that which is least, we fail in the great result. If we would realise at each prompting of conscience “this has more in it than I can see, it is the voice of my ideal and perfect self leading me on to perfection, this little detail is the next step towards perfection,” we should be more prompt in obedience.

But shall we say then that to emancipate ourselves from sin we need but to follow the leading of conscience? Surely not; we should find that very soon the commands of conscience were beyond our power to obey. What we need even more than light to know the way, is strength to follow it. Conscience with its prophetic voice can lead indeed, but who can follow. “To will is present with me, but to accomplish that which is good I find not.” The soul weakened, diseased and paralysed by sin can follow but a little way with faltering steps and gasping breath.

It needs to be led to One who can heal its wounds and endue it with power. Conscience cannot save the soul from sin, but it can lead it to its Deliverer.

4. The Law of the mind brings it to its Liberator. And the Liberator of the soul is not a law though it works by law. It is a Person. The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Striving to obey the voice of conscience, following it with halting steps, the soul finds itself handed over to a living Person who can flood its whole nature with quickening influences, and the energising hope that a person alone can give. This soul half-dead in trespasses and sins finds itself at last encircled in the sweet Breath of the Spirit of Life, its fagged and jaded nature healed and soothed by the Balm of His Presence, so strong and so gentle.

But even the Spirit of Life works by law. His action upon the soul is never lawless and capricious. He leads the soul through the Law of the mind. Conscience is as it were a valve through which the stream of grace flowing forth from the Spirit of God floods the soul. If conscience be closed and the Law of the mind violated, the stream is stayed, if conscience be open, the stream rushes forth in a mighty torrent, refreshing, invigorating, uplifting all the powers of the soul. And then there is a kind of double action – the conscience itself hears the voice of the Spirit and becomes illuminated with supernatural light and sensitiveness, and so opens more promptly and more frequently, till by the ceaseless flow of grace in which every faculty becomes steeped, the whole being is supernaturalised. And it cries out in the joy of its deliverance and healing, “The Law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the Law of sin and death”.

But once more. The seat of the conflict lies not directly between sin and virtue, but, as the experience of all shows, and as Saint Paul teaches, between the Law of the members and the Law of the mind. “The Law of my members fighting against the Law of my mind captivates me in the Law of sin.” Sin as yet perhaps dare not disclose itself. It sends forth its champion to exhaust the nature and tamper with conscience before it reveals itself. Behind the Law of the members stands sin, behind the Law of the mind stands the Spirit of Life, while conscience and the Law of the members do battle. It is as it was of old. The Philistines sent forth their champion and the people of God sent theirs, and Goliath and David did battle. David with his sling and stones but with all the forces of righteousness behind, and Goliath with his giant strength and mighty sword and all the enemies of God behind him. If Goliath conquered Israel must have been defeated, as Goliath fell the forces of the Philistines fled before Israel.

And thus the great moral battle, whether the soul is to be ruled by sin or by the Spirit of Life, depends upon the victory of the Law of the members or the Law of the mind. The trifling acts of self-indulgence or self-will against which conscience so vehemently protests from the first waking in the morning when the Law of the members cries, “Rest a little longer,” and the Law of the mind cries, “Arise, and prepare for the work of the day,” on through every hour, almost every moment of the day the tide of battle ebbs and flows. And behind these two combatants whose conflict is over things so trifling that they scarce seem to have any moral value at all, stand the two mighty powers of life and death, of sin and righteousness, awaiting the issue.

This, therefore, is the seat and centre of self-discipline in that twilight land where the finest rays of light so blend with the darkness that the presence of the two can scarcely be detected.